Commentary

Solving some first-base problems

Many clubs are getting little offense from first base, but that doesn't mean they have to

Updated: May 9, 2011, 1:40 PM ET
By Jonah Keri | FanGraphs
Brandon BeltJayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireBrandon Belt is hitting .417 at Triple-A and could give the Giants a major offensive boost.

Sabermetrician Bill James introduced the concept of a defensive spectrum in his seminal "Baseball Abstract" books. The spectrum ranks the most difficult to least difficult positions to fill based on how tough each one is defensively. The easiest position (other than designated hitter, which requires no defensive value) is first base. Teams can put their biggest sluggers at the position knowing that defense is a secondary concern.

So why are so many first basemen hitting like pitchers so far this season? Dave Cameron addressed the issue of light-hitting left fielders last week, but at least clubs can claim they're putting speed in lieu of offense in left. No one can make that claim at first base. So for those teams currently afflicted with a light hitter at first, here are some fixes.

Let's start with teams that are least likely to contend because they have it easiest.

San Diego Padres

San Diego's platoon of Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu has combined to hit below the Mendoza Line with a sub-.250 on-base percentage. That's typical of the team with the worst offense in the NL, and the Padres won't contend this season.

Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) is a staff writer for Grantland. His book, The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First, is a national best seller. His new book Up, Up, and Away, on the history of the Montreal Expos, is now available for preorder.